Feb 29, 2012

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Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational Review

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational Review

Hot Shots Golf is a franchise that is perfect for portable devices. It’s a fast paced golf game that doesn’t have the same difficulty usually associated with the more traditional golf titles. Rounds can be completed in ten to thirty minutes, making it a great pick-up-and-play game. Hot Shots Golf has been a PlayStation staple for many years, and while HSG: World Invitational doesn’t try to reinvent anything, it still provides a great experience that should please early Vita adopters.

Anyone who is a long-standing fan of the franchise might not be too impressed with World Invitational, because what it offers is very similar to previous titles. Swing mechanics still consist of the three-button swing (hit x to start the power meter, hit it again to set the power, then again to set accuracy); however, there are a few other shot types that can be purchased later on, including the classic shot. World Invitational continues the long standing approachable gameplay with colorful, cartoony characters and relaxing music, which makes the Vita title just as enjoyable as previous iterations. That said, if you have been playing every HSG title, this might make the Vita version less impressive.

Single player provides a good amount of gameplay for the limited amount of modes available. You can just jump right into a round of golf with Stroke Play, jump into training to test your skills and learn the courses, or go into Challenge mode, which offers tournament play. Challenge mode is where you play in small tournaments that eventually lead up to versus matches with new characters. Beating those characters will unlock the characters in the shop. In order to get to that point you’ll have to get stars by placing first in subsequent tournaments. The first few tournaments are relatively easy, but as you continue it gets harder and harder to obtain the stars. You can also unlock crowns after completing a specific set of goals for each round; however, they don’t tell you what you’ll have to do, which is annoying (if you need help, here’s a list of the requirements).

Each of the different single player modes (besides training) allows you to earn points and gain loyalty with a character. Gaining loyalty with a character unlocks various things like extra power shots or different abilities, along with costumes. Points allow you to purchase things from the shop, most of which are simply aesthetics, but some items are important to your success. You can eventually buy upgraded golf clubs, golf balls, and characters. As you rank up, you’ll be going against stiffer competition, and you’ll need better equipment and golfers to handle. The AI is actually scaled really well to your skill, so I never felt completely cheated when playing tournaments. All of these things adds to the addictiveness of World Invitational, because you’ll always want to go back to get more points, get a crown, and increase loyalty of each of the golfers (not to mention there are trophies for all of these things).

All of this wouldn’t matter if the golf itself wasn’t fun, but thankfully, it is. The many courses are well designed and fit well within this cartoony universe. Obstacles pop up every now and then like a windmill, a set of archways, or sail boats, and the courses also feature a lot of random animals, sand traps, and tricky greens, which can sometimes be challenging. Like most golf games, you’ll also have to contend with wind, rain, and different slopes, but the easy controls helps you get past a lot of these challenges. Since it’s simply a three-click system, you can easily set up a draw/fade shot. The power shots help as well, because it is easy to get extra distance or spin out of your shot, though some require you to get 100% accuracy when timing your shot. The course difficulty does ramp up quickly, but if you play enough you’ll be able to master all these “trick” shots. If you are feeling the pressure, you can scale the difficulty to Easy Mode, which doesn’t make the course any easier, but does make the opposition less competitive.

Outside of the single player there are a few multiplayer modes you can take part in; however, you’ll mostly be competing against a leaderboard even when playing other people. There is the standard ad-hoc mode, which is nice, but there isn’t an option for hot seat play as far as I saw, which is definitely disappointing. Online multiplayer (which requires a code) offers a nice lobby system where you can book tournaments to compete against other players. These tournaments come up pretty often, though you might have to wait a few minutes for some to start.

The tournament style is actually a great way to see how you compare to other players, and you can easily chat with them using text chat. The only issues I ran into was the fact that occasionally you’ll be done a lot sooner than other players, meaning a normal round might take you longer to complete. You’ll also be able to use all the upgrades you purchased in single player, so while it might benefit some to have upgraded equipment, others will always be at the disadvantage. There are lots of different tournaments with tons of settings, so you’ll never find yourself playing in the same tournament all that often. Daily Tournaments allow you to test your skill in a pure leaderboard style. New tournaments pop up every day and are a great way to quickly compete against others without having to wait for a tournament to start in the lobby. While the online modes don’t offer any “true” competition, it is a nice option to have on the Vita.

I never really came across any major issues while playing HSG: World Invitational. Online play worked great and single player ran smoothly. The only complaints I had was the lack of touch screen use. The touch screen is mainly used to navigate the menus and to zoom in on where the ball will land. The rear touch screen can be used to measure distances, but I never really used that. You can also pinch the back and front of the touch pads to move the pin location, but again I never really saw the need for that. Here I think Clap Hanz could have done more with the touch screen. Either they could have added touch screen controls if I didn’t want to use the X button to swing (which sometimes can get uncomfortable) or maybe incorporated the joysticks. While the three-click system works well, I think there were definitely some missed opportunities with the touch screen.

In the end, Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational offers a great experience. The visuals and music are stellar, the single player offers a lot of replay value, and the multiplayer (for what it is) works well. The pick-up-and-play style suits a portable device really well, especially since there is no lag time when putting the system to sleep and picking it back up a few hours later. The courses are well designed and offer a lot of variety, all the unlocks will keep you playing, and of course, there is trophy support, which always helps. What it comes down to is how long it has been since you last played HSG. If you’ve been playing every iteration, than you might not need the Vita version. If you haven’t played in a while (which is the case for me), this title is a great one to pick up for your new device. The same basic gameplay that has worked in previous iterations works well on the Vita, even though it might not showcase all of the Vita’s capabilities, but overall, it’s a fun and addicting golf game.

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Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
Platform: PS Vita
Genre: Sports
Release Date: 02/14/12
Developer: Clap Hanz
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
MSRP: $39.99